Home » Reviews » Off West End » A Scent of Flowers, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre – Review

A Scent of Flowers, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre – Review

James Saunders
Directed by Matthew Parker

★★★★

Pros: The tone of the mid twentieth century was conveyed and performed beautifully.

Cons: The show moved too quickly in the beginning, making it a bit hard to follow.

Our Verdict: The trinkets of anguish in Zoe’s life are bought together fantastically by DogOrange theatre company, examining the true pitfalls of heartbreak. The audience is taken back to a recent but long-forgotten past.

Courtesy of Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

I always look forward to shows at the intimate Brockley Jack Studio Theatre. I am confident in the
knowledge that they will be beautifully produced and masterfully performed within such a small space and A Scent of Flowers certainly did not disappoint. This year marks the eve of 50 years since the play was written by James Saunders. The DogOrange theatre company created a show which enthralled me and many of those around me. In this absurdist piece, Zoe played by Charlotte Blake finds herself at her own funeral, looking forlornly upon those paying their respects and wondering how she got there. The show entails her slowly rifling through her memories to try and understand what brought her to her death at such a young age.

We first see the chirpy, wilful Zoe pondering upon her numerous familial relationships. Mainly her flirty relationship with chipper step-brother Godfrey (Sam Saunders), her disdain for Stepmother Agnes (Jodyanne Fletcher Richardson) and her unusually tactile relationship with Agnes’ brother Edgar. The chemistry between the characters was undeniable throughout, particularly that of Zoe and Godfrey, a truly playful and innocent love and an admirable sense of Godfrey needing to safeguard Zoe from the pitfalls of life; pious priests and married lovers alike.

Initially, I’d say within the first 20 minutes, the performances are relayed very rapidly and although this is probably meant to convey the initially exuberant context of Zoe’s life, it served to slightly confuse me as to what they were actually trying to say. However, as the actors settled into their characters and the glimpses of the tragedies within Zoe’s life started to shine through, I was truly engaged in discovering what had occurred in her short life to lead to her sorrowful death.

Under the clever direction of Matthew Parker, we see the acts moves smoothly from one to another, from the current day funeral to Zoe’s past day memories, whilst maintaining the quintessentially British tone throughout. The audience was truly transported back to the 20th century (which now seems so long ago) and experience the famous English stiff upper lip portrayed particularly brilliantly by Zoe’s father David (John Sears) and the seemingly cold-hearted Agnes.

In terms of performances, Blake very much shone as Zoe. She bought forth a character of many layers and demonstrated a certain innocence, trusting and vulnerability, showing us that she was not so wilful after all. She depicted the tragedy of heartbreak impeccably. Richardson’s performance as the stoic Agnes can also be described as faultless although the performance of the evening for me was definitely Jamie Laird’s Scrivens, haunting as the funeral director and also as Zoe’s priest. He performed with an interesting intensity and cunning.

Although the tale is earmarked as wildly inventive, it also deals with the moral struggles many of us face in day to day life – of knowing the difference between right and wrong but of not being able to stop the actions our loneliness has driven us to. DogOrange theatre company have created a worthwhile production of James Saunders’ obscure script.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

A Scent of Flowers runs at the Jack Studio Theatre until 28 September 2013.
Box office 0844 8700 887 or book online at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/brockleyjackstudio/events

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